COLM O'REGAN: Getting angry at the lack of human interaction is just counter productive

THE bank queue is getting restless. It soon becomes apparent that the woman at the counter has a complicated arrangement. The staff member she was dealing with has left to go off into the mysterious back of the bank.

I’ve never been in the back of a bank but I imagine that one day the door will be left open enough for me to see thousands of people turning a giant wheel being whipped by large sweaty overseers wearing goat masks and chanting to the Horned God.

The employee comes back, this time with his supervisor. Uh oh, this does not look good.

Normally we other queuers would jump to moral judgement about the person slowing up a queue. When it comes to queues, there are two golden rules: no one’s business is as important as mine and a person slowing up a queue is a tool.

Blaming the counter-hugger is therapeutic in these types of situations: if you’re queuing at security at the airport behind someone who seems unaware 10 YEARS AFTER IT FIRST CAME IN — about the fluids-in-plastic-bags rule.

Unless they are from an Uncontacted Amazonian tribe, naked with shamanic symbols painted on their buttocks, and an armadillo leg-bone threaded through their nasal septum and worshipping the metal detector as a gateway to the Dead, unless all that you are well within your rights to sigh loudly behind them.

But this time we the bank queue are not annoyed with Complicated Customer.

When we turn half-around to the person behind us, and raise our eyes, our target is the bank and the fact they have only one counter open.

One might think they were short staffed but no, three people are out working the floor attempting to snare customers on their way to try and talk to a human.

“Do you know how to use the lodgement machine?” is their opening gambit. If you falter at all they’ll have gently guided you to the flashing screen.

“It’s great if you want to skip the queue” they say and you feel like screaming. “THERE WOULDN’T BE A QUEUE IF YOU WENT BEHIND THE COUNTER”

But there’s no point in giving out to the bank staff. They’re just enforcing a policy. It’s like visiting someone to be met at the door by them suggesting you’d much prefer to have your tea in the garage, because their mother got rid of the kettle.

Even the shape of banks has changed. The area that used to be human counters gets narrower and narrower playing tricks with your mind. “Have I got bigger or has this area just got smaller?”

Every time I go into a bank now, a counter has disappeared. Machines have taken over overnight, as if the little slit where the cheque goes in expanded to be a giant demonic mouth and gobbled a bit of counter.

Of course the machines are handy. I use them when lodging cheques. I like to put positive affirmations to myself on the description field eg “YOU ‘RE NOT THE WORST OF THEM, COLM”

And you can still talk to a human if you decide you want to look at the bank’s extensive range of investment options but for all the rest of the stuff, it’s like they’re saying “oh it’s you. Um ... it’s not really a great time, maybe you could talk to my colleague BANKATRON?

But I wonder if it’s a mistake. Are vital skills being lost?

What if the fuse goes on the plug behind the Bankadex 3000s and the last human who worked there only waters the plants and wipes angry graffiti off the machines.

Who will serve the complicated customer then?


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